Crime and criminal violence are probably the most important obstacles to public acceptance of human rights. This can certainly undermine the achievement of a human rights culture in South Africa's young democracy.
Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa argues that, while the advent of the constitutional era is very significant, the Constitution is only a guideline for nurturing the life of the nation. With rights go responsibilities.
Richard Calland and Thabani Masuku argue that being tough on crime and strong on human rights is demanded by the Constitution and possible within the constitutional jurisprudence that has emerged. Fighting crime means preventing criminals from infringing the rights of ordinary people and from undermining stability and good governance.
Many people, Piers Pigou argues, have very limited awareness of human rights. While many agree that crime is a symptom of social inequality, a number of myths have arisen û for example, that the Constitution contributes to crime because it protects criminals or that capital punishment will reduce crime.
Jeremy Sarkin argues that the high levesl of crime in South Africa undermine good governance and have a negative impact on the economy and on human rights, The problem is exacerbated by a poorly functioning criminal justice system. However, government has taken steps to address many of the problems.
Jean Redpath, who has systematically visited police stations and interviewed police officers, classifies crime as economic and violent crime. Most economic crime, in her view, is opportunistic.
The Independent Complaints Directorate is an independent body that monitors and investigates complaints against the South African Police Service. Riaz Salojee discusses the legal framework, activities, successes and challenges that have faced the directorate and explains how he sees the ICD supporting the development of an approach to policing which is both effective and which respects human rights.
Private sector security companies now routinely provide services that used to be the sole preserve of the police. Clifford Shearing argues that this is a positive development because people can choose which policing service to buy, enabling them to gain greater control over their lives.
Lovell Fernandez argues that predictability must be restored to the justice system: potential offenders must know that if they commit a crime, there is a very strong possibility that they will be arrested, convicted and sentenced. The article outlines efforts being made to improve the functioning of the courts.
Esther Steyn critically examines the restrictive 1997 law on bail and the Constitutional Court's failure to uphold the internationally recognised right of a suspect to liberty while awaiting trial. The perception that bail is granted too easily, that this contributes significantly to crime and that restrictive bail laws are therefore necessary, however, does not stand up to scrutiny.